The 2014 season had a ton of promise for both Phil Mickelson and Tiger Woods.
Mickelson, who turned 44 in June, was coming off one of his best major wins ever at the British Open in 2013 and with the U.S. Open being hosted a Pinehurst, the Grand Slam talk dominated the PGA Tour preview talk.
Tiger went major-less in '13, but he did card five PGA Tour wins on his way to another Player of the Year award and the confidence needed to roll into the new season with majors on his mind.
But things have definitely not gone that way for both Phil and Tiger. This season has been a disaster of sorts for both players, neither winning a single tournament because of one reason or another.
Tiger, of course, had surgery that kept him out of both the Masters and the U.S. Open while Mickelson has been trying to wake up a sleeping putter that can't seem to find the bottom of any cup when he needs it.
But this is the type of tournament that both players are capable of winning and both need to win if they want to get anything going in 2014. Tiger might not be totally back, but he has sounded confident in his health and his game as he's prepared to defend at Hoylake.
For Mickelson, this is a week to remember what happened a year ago when he came in after winning the Scottish Open and adding a third leg of the career Grand Slam. Mickelson might not be playing his best golf, and is still without a top-10 on the PGA Tour this season, but he did fire a final round 65 on Sunday at the Scottish Open to give him hope this week, and if there is one player in this field that can ride momentum to success, it's Phil Mickelson.
The funny thing about this major championship is how few people are giving either of these guys a chance. For so many years all golf fans have wanted was a Phil and Tiger showdown late on Sunday at a major championship, and while we've spent the last few years picking between these two before the tournaments begin, could this be the week that both simply fly under the radar and put together four good rounds of golf?
Most will say no. We like Justin Rose, Henrik Stenson, Rickie Fowler and Adam Scott this week. Tiger and Phil aren't even the betting favorites at Hoylake, something that seems to always be the case, but with four good rounds of golf, they can both turn disappointing years into a huge success.
A second British Open title in as many years for Mickelson would put him in rarefied air, while Tiger Woods would finally get off the major-less streak he has been on since 2008, and give people doubting his chances at catch Jack Nicklaus' record a reason to second guess themselves.
We will know a lot more by Sunday afternoon, but for now, it's Phil and Tiger back again at a major, but under completely different circumstances.
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